Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Top Ten Books I Would Like to See under My Christmas Tree

Top Ten Tuesday is sponsored by The Broke and the Bookish.  The following are the top books I would welcome seeing under the tree on Christmas morning:

1.  THE NARROW ROAD TO THE DEEP NORTH. By Richard Flanagan.  A frail humanity survives the unspeakable in this novel of the Burma-­Thailand Railway of World War II.  I still cannot forget reading his wonderful novel, Gould's Book of Fish.

2.  The Grove Centenary Editions of Samuel Beckett Boxed Set.  Need I say more?

3.  THE BONE CLOCKS. By David Mitchell.  In this latest head-­spinning flight into other dimensions from the author of “Cloud Atlas,” all borders between pubby England and the machinations of the undead begin to blur.  A great follow-up to Cloud Atlas which I loved. 

4.  A new edition of The Odyssey to read for the spring weekend retreat planned by the University of Chicago.

5.  COLORLESS TSUKURU TAZAKI AND HIS YEARS OF PILGRIMAGE. By Haruki Murakami. Translated by Philip Gabriel.  A novel of a man’s traumatic entrance into adulthood and the shadowy passages he must then ­negotiate.  I'm overdue to read more Murakami.

6.  THE DOG. By Joseph O’Neill.  In O’Neill’s disturbing, elegant novel, his first since “Netherland,” a lost and tormented New York lawyer recognizes more darkness within himself than in the iniquitous place he works, Dubai.  Our book group enjoyed Netherland.

7.  NORA WEBSTER. By Colm Toibin.  In Toibin’s luminous, elliptical novel, set in the late 1960s and early ’70s, an Irishwoman struggles toward independence after her husband’s unexpected death.  Having read Brooklyn I expect more of his best.

8.  THE POETRY OF DEREK WALCOTT 1948-2013. Selected by Glyn Maxwell.  Stroke by patient stroke, the poems in this largehearted and essential selection from Walcott, now 84, are the work of a painterly hand.  I admired Omeros several years ago and would like to delve further into Walcott's poetry.

9.  NAPOLEON: A Life. By Andrew Roberts.  Roberts brilliantly conveys the sheer energy of this military and organizational whirlwind.  This looks like a good way to explore his life.

10.  THE PARTHENON ENIGMA. By Joan Breton Connelly.  With first-rate scholarship, an archaeologist reinterprets the Parthenon frieze in this exciting and revelatory history.  This combines my interest in the classics with archaeology.  A sure winner.


Ruth said...

I almost listed a new edition of The Odyssey, too, but I own three used copies, and I've not read one, yet. Shameful, I know. So I can't even ask for a new edition.

James said...


Thanks for your comment. You cannot have too many copies of the Odyssey -- there will be time to read them later (but not too much later).

Brian Joseph said...

This is a super list James.

I will likely be reading rereading the Odyssey soon and I think I will the new translation.

Brian Joseph said...

By the way - Have a great holiday season James!

Parrish Lantern said...

Just finished the Murakami & enjoyed it, have a great Xmas.
A Christmas Childhood ~ Patrick Kavanagh

One side of the potato-pits was white with frost -
How wonderful that was, how wonderful!
And when we put our ears to the paling-post
The music that came out was magical.

The light between the ricks of hay and straw
Was a hole in Heaven's gable. An apple tree
With its December-glinting fruit we saw -
O you, Eve, were the world that tempted me.

To eat the knowledge that grew in clay
And death the germ within it! Now and then
I can remember something of the gay
Garden that was childhood's. Again.

The tracks of cattle to a drinking-place,
A green stone lying sideways in a ditch,
Or any common sight, the transfigured face
Of a beauty that the world did not touch.

My father played the melodion
Outside at our gate;
There were stars in the morning east
And they danced to his music.

Across the wild bogs his melodion called
To Lennons and Callans.
As I pulled on my trousers in a hurry
I knew some strange thing had happened.

Outside in the cow-house my mother
Made the music of milking;
The light of her stable-lamp was a star
And the frost of Bethlehem made it twinkle.

A water-hen screeched in the bog,
Mass-going feet
Crunched the wafer-ice on the pot-holes,
Somebody wistfully twisted the bellows wheel.

My child poet picked out the letters
On the grey stone,
In silver the wonder of a Christmas townland,
The winking glitter of a frosty dawn.

Cassiopeia was over
Cassidy's hanging hill,
I looked and three whin bushes rode across
The horizon — the Three Wise Kings.

And old man passing said:
‘Can't he make it talk -
The melodion.' I hid in the doorway
And tightened the belt of my box-pleated coat.

I nicked six nicks on the door-post
With my penknife's big blade -
there was a little one for cutting tobacco.
And I was six Christmases of age.

My father played the melodion,
My mother milked the cows,
And I had a prayer like a white rose pinned
On the Virgin Mary's blouse.

smellincoffee said...

That history of the Corsican does look interesting!

James said...

Parrish Lantern,

Thanks for your comment and the wonderful verse. Every stanza is amazing - especially liked "Cassiopeia was over Cassidy's hanging hill,".

James said...


Thanks for all your comments and the holiday greeting. Have a great one also.